The marches reflect popular disquiet over the government’s decision to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62- a move that is expected to save the government over 70 billion euros. The change in the retirement age was just one of many austerity measures enacted after the Greek government was besieged by fears of default. Governments all around Europe swiftly enacted laws meant to cut deficits and bolster confidence in bond markets and the stability of the euro as a hard currency.
Labor marches are not the only thing that Nicolas Sarkozy has to worry about. His popularity has already bottomed out to the point that he is looking to certain ‘mass appeal’ initiatives to salvage a chance for reelection in 2012. One such initiative was the ban on full-face Islamic veils, passed last July. A more recent one is the ongoing crackdown on illegal Roma camps and naturalized immigrants who attack policemen.
Over at Slate, Anne Applebaum argues that the hard turn towards austerity, and the popular unrest that results, are dividing Europe into North and South: